While going through some old STRETCH magazines (a magazine I published for several years), I found some reviews of children's books which I had two of my children, both pre-teens at the time, write reviews for kids and parents. I remember publishing these just before Christmas and quite a few subscribers wrote in that they used the reviews to help them buy some books for their children for Christmas.

I have no idea if any of these are still in print, nor do I have any time at the moment to update these old reviews on newer books. But I thought I'd make these available to you in case they are useful in helping you select some books for your own children or grandchildren to read.


by Eleanor Wong Telemaque
illustrations by Earl Hill
Edward W. Blyden, Press, Inc.,
New York, 1980
ISBN # 0-914110-08-x

Reviewed by Janie Corbett

This is a well written, informative book about Haiti's major holidays. Payo, an older Haitian now living in the United States, reminisces to his children and grandchildren about the beloved land he left behind. Although Payo can no longer live in Haiti, he continues his strong love for his native land.

His children were raised in Haiti but his grandchildren are being raised in the United States. Payo, now well into his sixties, spins these tales while he baby-sits. He is worried that when he is gone his grandchildren will forget their roots. He decides to tell the children about all the important holidays in Haiti, so that they can remember Haiti throughout the year.

This book details nine holidays and the way that Haitians celebrate them. It's interesting and fun to read. I would recommend this book for young readers. It's an entertaining way to learn about how another culture celebrates its holidays.


by Ken Weddle
Lerner Publications,
Minneapolis, 1989
ISBN # 0-8225-1816-3

Reviewed by Janie Corbett

This book of good pictures, and current information on Haiti's past and present should appeal to young readers. Part of the Visual Geography Series, it briefly covers topics such as Haiti's location, land, standard of living, farming, language, religion, music, literature, government (past and present), Haitian heros, agriculture, wages, transportation, and tourism.

The bright, colorful and original pictures help visualize the country while the text provides understanding. The book is well written and inviting. Included with the pictures are maps which would be useful to teach students Haiti's geography. This book could interest even the young teens.


by John Griffiths
Franklin Watts Limited,
New York, 1989
ISBN # 0-531-10735-3

Reviewed by Janie Corbett

This young child's book is a colorful and knowledgeable introduction to Haiti and her people. Griffiths briefly covers numerous topics and gives a sense of the country. He discusses religion, politics, home and school life, public transportation, money, festivals and so on.

The book provides a general overview of Haiti which will appeal to young readers. The pictures take one inside Haiti for a better understanding of her culture.


by Erin Condit
Chelsea House Publishers,
New York, 1989
ISBN 1-55546-832-2 (cloth)
ISBN 0-7910-0565-8 (paper)

Reviewed by Brian Corbett

Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti for nearly 30 years with incredible ruthlessness. Francois and his special forces, the dreaded Tontons Macoutes, eliminated all dissent and forced the people into complete submission to Duvalier's will.

When Francois died in 1971, he had arranged for his son, Jean-Claude, to succeeded him. Only 19 at the time, Jean-Claude's mother ruled as regent until, in 1980, Jean-Claude married the glamorous mulatto, Michele Bennet. These rulers lived in their lavish palace but a few miles from one of the worst slums in the world, Cite Solay.

In 1986, the people rebelled and forced the Duvaliers to flee to France. Recently Jean-Claude and Michele were divorced. Jean-Claude presently resides in France, but, persistent rumors suggest he may attempt to return to Haiti.

Francois and Jean-Claude are more commonly called Papa and Baby Doc. Francois began as a doctor in the countryside and as an authority on the Voodoo religion, a knowledge which he later used to help control the country. In his campaign for presidency and throughout his 13 years as dictator he convinced his people that he was "an immaterial being", and impervious to physical harm.

Condit's book details much of the Duvaliers' regime. He doesn't merely tell the facts, but it explains to the reader the sequence of the events and who the people were who were involved in the regime.

Tracing Haiti's history from her beginning, Condit brings the reader right up to the time when Francois came to power. His careful account continues throughout the years of Baby Doc, and beyond to the recent group of interim presidents of Haiti.

This book would be good for most ages, though a little harsh in some aspects for young children. It is as informative as it is well written.


by Gyneth Johnson
Illustrated by Angelo di Benedetto
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1949

Reviewed by Janie Corbett

This is an intriguing book of twelve popular Haitian folk tales. These tales have been circulating Haiti for generations. Now they are presented to us in an enjoyable fashion and allow American youth insight into Haitian culture through these popular tales.

A typical Haitian folk tale is the story of "The Turtle and the Sheep." One day on the road Tortu, the turtle, met up with Gro Limaine, the sheep. Gro Limaine asked Tortu if it was possible to borrow money for food because lately his luck had been bad and he was hungry.

Tortu had little money but gave it to Gro Limaine because he needed it. Gro Limaine was very grateful for this and told Tortu that he would not forget his kindness, and if he ever was in trouble or needed something to be sure and sing a little tune which he taught him, then Gro Limaine would be there to help. And the two went on their ways.

Not long after, Tortu invited a lady turtle friend over for dinner. She gladly accepted, as long as she could bring some friends. Tortu happily agreed. He spent all day preparing for his guests so when the lady turtle arrived with a friend, Tortu greeted them kindly and told them dinner was ready. But the lady turtle said that all the guests had not arrived so they must wait a bit. Soon, there were more guests than Tortu had prepare for; turtles galore.

Embarrassed, Tortu quickly ran to the kitchen to prepare more food for his company. He added more and more food into the big black pot and soon the pot was so heavy it fell and Tortu was trapped under it. He tried to wiggle his way from beneath but there was no hope.

Then Tortu remembered what Gro Limaine had said so he sang the tune and soon Gro Limaine and his sheep friends came to rescue Tortu. While he was being helped by the sheep all the turtles packed up and left in discouragement, but the sheep stayed to celebrate a new friendship while eating a delicious meal.

HOW THE DONKEYS CAME TO HAITI is a book for the younger child, and an excellent book for reading aloud to groups.


by Richard and Winslow Pels
Illustrated by Winslow Pels
A Calico Book, published by Contemporary Books, Inc.,
Chicago, 1988
ISBN # 0-8092-4482-9 $13.95

Reviewed by Brian Corbett

Haiti produces most of the best baseballs in the world. It also pays horrible wages, and allows atrocious working conditions. But, that's not the theme of Pels' delightful tale. Actually their fictional factory is a rundown looking building in the town of Marmalade, near Haiti's north coast. The owners of the factory, Leonard and Harriet Westdale are a young couple who, unlike many actual U.S. investors, moved to Haiti after purchasing the factory. Word drifts back to relatives in the U.S. that they are missing.

The cousins of the mysteriously missing couple, Amanda and Amonya Teasedale, were greatly alarmed, and told their friend Miss Baba Furbelow of their distress. Miss Baba quickly called for her cousin, Trotwood, and her old school friend, Fly-Girl Betty. Together the three immediately set off for Haiti.

While Betty prepared her little plane for the return trip, Trotwood and Miss Baba hunted for a guide with a boat to take them to Marmalade. Fortunately, they found the old war heroes, Kernel Gluepots, and his ever loyal friend and donkey, Tap-Tap. Kernel Gluepots readied his boat, La Mouche, and the group set off.

Once in Marmalade they met the seedy foreman of the factory, Wrigley Slugfest, and heard a lot of his superstitious beliefs before they to pretended to leave; while actually hiding in the forest. They observed the local Police Captain, Louie Lapink, and Slugfest exchange greetings and watched as the two began loading the truck with stolen baseballs. The unseen sleuths followed the truck, which could move only as quickly as one could walk because of the potholes, all the way up the mountain to the citadel, (an old fortress built on top of a mountain built by Henri Christophe) where they found their friends, locked up inside.

It's a happily ever after story.

Winslow Pels and Richard Pets have done their homework. The book reflects significant research on Haiti, and a great care to avoid sex stereotyped characters. It is therefore especially unfortunate that they have been influenced by typical American writings about Haitian Voodoo which emphasize the exotic and lurid in Voodoo and miss the centrality and everydayness of Haiti's dominate religion.

Nonetheless the book is both exciting and fun to read. Since all the characters are animals of one sort or another, (which provides a great opportunity for Winslow Pels' lively and vivid illustrations) this is a delightful book for young children.


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Bob Corbett